Dean Russell MP - Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill

Updated: Apr 27


I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) for his excellent speech. First, I would like to join others in paying tribute to Captain Tom. I felt last year that he was almost a grandfather to the nation. We have definitely lost a member of our British family in the last few hours, and I send my condolences to his family. He was truly one of the best of us.

I will speak primarily to parts 1 and 3. I thank the Ministers and all involved with the Bill, which does something quite transformative for not just the industry but the country. The last major change to legislation in this area happened in the 1950s. It is quite incredible to think that the rules and legislation on this industry have not changed in that time, given that the industry has shaped not just how we live but how we look at the world, how we understand other cultures and how we understand one another, and has made the world a little bit smaller as technology has advanced.

For many years as a student, I worked at an airport. I did everything from cleaning toilets to patrolling car parks—not that I was particularly threatening when walking around in my yellow jacket. What I saw back then was the incredible passion of those who work in the airline industry—everyone from those who made sure that the planes were safe to fly to those who were flying them. It is right for Government to ensure that, as we look to the next 20, 30, 40 and 50 years, we have an ambitious plan that puts security, safety and the traveller at the heart of it. Part 1, which relates to the collaborative approach and the ways in which airlines can work together, does that. It is so important to ensure that passengers are put at the heart of this, and the Bill does that very well.

I mentioned that the last major change was made in the 1950s. That reminds me, as a science fiction fan, of the prediction by Arthur C. Clarke in 1945 of the idea of satellites. Back then, that was truly science fiction. We did not imagine that satellites would exist in the way they do today, and they have transformed our lives in so many ways. With this Bill, and in particular part 3, we are seeing what was science fiction being transformed into science fact.

The role of drones in society over just a few years has been transformative. Organisations such as Amazon use them to deliver parcels. There are medical opportunities —for example, to deliver vaccines, especially in far-flung countries where it is perhaps easier to travel long distances by air, via unmanned vehicles, than it would be in the UK.

With every good move in technology and in the shift from fiction to fact, we have to take into account the impact on real lives. Given the impact that unmanned vehicles could have on society, it is right that the Bill gives the Home Office and the police powers to ensure that these vehicles are used in the right way and do not create more danger and risk to those around us. We have heard excellent speeches about drones being used to drop illicit substances and items into prisons, and we have heard about the dangers of drones at airports, potentially risking lives by flying too close or even flying into manned vehicles.

When we look forward, we have got to look at this issue in the round, and the Bill really does that. It enables additional police powers and creates the ability to have an industry around drones that will put up to £42 billion into the economy by 2030. It is creating a lot of opportunity, but in a safe way.

When people look back in 50 or 60 years’ time to the legislation being put in place now, I believe they will look at this Bill and see how balanced it was, how forward-thinking it was and how it enabled us to ensure that legislation and Bills were in place to protect society, while not binding the hands of those who want to develop new opportunities to create technology that can transform the society we live in.

My Plan For Watford section header

Dean is actively involved in the community and is leading local and national campaigns and initiatives to make a difference for people across Watford and around the UK. Use the links below to find out more. If you don't see something important to you, let Dean know via a quick community survey here. 

Funding For
Watford General

Find out about Dean's successful lobbying for £400m funding for West Herts Hospital Trust.

Infrastructure &Transport

From Woodmere Avenue to local infrastructure and transport. Find out about Dean's local work. 

Mental Health
& Wellbeing

Find out Dean's plans for mental health & wellbeing across our town.

Safe Streets &
Fighting Crime

Find out about Dean's work to put victims first, tackle crime and ensure our streets are safe.

Tackling Homelessness

Dean has helped secure over £4m to end homelessness in Watford. 

Education, Skills & Jobs

Find out about the latest initiatives for skills and jobs from kickstarter schemes to training. 

Environment & Waste

Join Dean in ending the use of single use plastic and waste across Watford. 

Share Your Views

What are your priorities? Dean wants to hear your views, complete this quick survey now.